First they came

First they came for the Anarchists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an anarchist.

Then they came for Muslims, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not muslim.

Then they came for Black Lives Matter, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not black.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a journalist.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

After Pastor Martin Niemöller.

Let’s do Drupal!

Following up on the very basic intro to Drupal class I created and taught for Girl Develop It RDU in the spring, I am now offering a half-day workshop for beginners who actually want to start getting their hands dirty using Drupal. The class is this weekend and we still have a lot of spaces left, so if you or someone you know is interested in getting a better understanding of Drupal, please let them know and share this link: meetup.com/Girl-Develop-It-RDU/events/232604888/

My slides or “curriculum” (such as it is) are available here: bit.ly/gdirdu-drupal. If you would like to adapt them for other noncommercial uses, please let me know and I will share an editable copy.

GDIRDU circle logoDrupal Development_1
twitter-fail-whale-dollars

In which I fail to cheer for @Jack’s return to #Twitter

A lot of people (well certain people) have been fussing about Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey returning to the company as it’s new CEO. While I think he’ll easily be better than his predecessor Dick Costolo, I see no cause to celebrate.

The magic in Twitter has always been the connections between people and the ability to grow and connect communities of people. The Arab Spring is the most famous and impactful example of this, but “Black Twitter” is a more current illustration. It’s a large and decentralized community which is having a real impact on people’s lives through connection, cultural critique, and shining a light on police brutality via #BlackLivesMatter.

Today I followed a link posted by a friend from back when there were only handful of us on Twitter. It was a collection of reactions of “Twitter influencers” to Jack’s return. They were all white, a couple were my friends. Responses ranged from “we’ll see” to “Jack is my BFF.” There was not a single concern raised. It should come as no surprise that all of the white, male CEOs of Twitter were hired by a board which is itself nearly all white men (with the exception of a few Asian men and one very powerful woman.

Twitter has been making moves to try to compete with media companies (and Facebook) by pushing big news and events, memes that trend via their mysterious algorithm, and celebrity tweeters. This ground has been covered and there will always be someone who does that better than them. Twitter’s unique value proposition is the ability to find and directly connect with real people who you don’t already know but who add value to your life. To be a participant in a movement (whether it’s for democracy or your favorite TV show) rather than just a consumer. I have rarely seen Twitter’s corporate policies show that they understand or appreciate this value. In addition, their continuing lack of interest in doing anything serious about the pervasive abuse of women online further shows that they just don’t care about us, the users that give their platform meaning.

So I wrote a few tweets about this, but it’s hard to convey the complexity and the importance of this in 140 characters so I wanted to expand in this blog post. If you share my concerns, I’d appreciate a retweet or other show of solidarity.

A debate for grown-ups

I’m surprised to report that I enjoyed watching the Democratic candidates debate last night. Well I enjoyed two of them anyway. I was only able to access the video stream on CNN.com about half the time but Twitter kept me looped in without missing a moment. I collected my favorite tweets below.

I was surprised to see that even some of my friends participated in commentary that attacked people for their gender (Hillary the ice queen), culture (Bernie the hippie), or their appearance (pretty much everyone). I can only assume that people do this because they are either extremely immature or they have no legitimate policy critique to make.

I am particularly sick of the hippie-baiting. I come from a long line of hippies and we love our country as much as anyone, if not moreso. Who was there working for civil rights, who marched against the Vietnam War, who cried out against the Iraq War? History will show that we have been on the side of justice and we have been right. Stop marginalizing hippies and listen!

NCT4G Unconference

NCT4G LogoWe held another great NCTech4Good hybrid unconference last week. I especially appreciated the other organizers who displayed teamwork above and beyond the call of duty.

Here are a few fun pictures by other folks. You can find more at twitter.com/search?q=nct4g and learn more about it in my previous blog post.

NCTech4Good 2015 is upon us!

Facilitating the 2014 NCTech4Good Unconference

Facilitating the 2014 NCTech4Good Unconference

It’s been a little while since I posted about this, but I have been continuing to facilitate NCTech4Good’s hybrid unconference annually since 2011. Tomorrow is our 2015 event!

A lot of people still don’t know what “unconference” means, so I get excited about spreading the gospel. I never fail to have people who looked at me skeptically in the morning come up to me afterward to say how much they loved it and that they will suggest their own organization or community try unconferencing.

Please read my blog post I <3 Unconferences that explains the history and how they work. NCT4G is a simplified hybrid of traditional and “open space” (ie: unconference) event so I will explain our unique methodology here.

Before the conference:

  • Organizers solicit session proposals, invite public voting, and, then hand-curate HALF of the day’s sessions leaving half of the rooms free.
  • Speakers whose sessions are not selected are invited to attend and pitch their session at the beginning of the day.

Kickin #unconference grid at @NCtech4good #unconference. #nct4gAt the conference:

  • The classic “unconference grid” (see right) is pre-populated with cards from sessions that were already picked by the organizers. The grid lets us see which sessions are in which rooms and at what times.
  • Anyone who is interested in convening a session as well as everyone who is already on the grid stands up in front of the group and gives a 30-60 second pitch for their topic. This needn’t be an organized presentation, although Powerpoints are welcome and projectors are available, but can be any form of panel, talk, conversation, demo, Q & A, or even a code sprint!
  • Cards for new sessions are added to The Grid, and then we work out any conflicts or special requirements, and Voila! We have a schedule.

As you can tell, I am very skeptical of the whole idea of messing with unconference process, and I wasn’t completely sure it would work at first. But it has a resounding success for several years in a row and everyone came away satisfied. This year we’ll be doing the same and I expect it to go even better. If you are in central North Carolina, I hope to see you there!

Girl, Develop WordPress!

GDIIn the past year I’ve been getting involved with my local chapter of a wonderful organization called Girl Develop It. They host social/networking events as well as programming classes. At their Code & Coffee I have found help for a sticky Javascript problem, gotten career tips, and helped others learn more about open source software. I took their Git class a few months ago, and now I use it at work every day! So when they asked me to lead a class for GDI RDU I was honored and happy to help.

This weekend I will be teaching a class on advanced WordPress Theming. Fortunately, I am able to utilize the wonderful curriculum developed by Tracy Levesque. So after thoroughly reviewing and slightly updating the slides (and making sure all the software on my own site was up to date, oops) I am ready to go!

If you want to follow along, I’ve posted the presentation here.

A great day at WordCamp Raleigh

I usually enjoy small tech conferences, but I was still surprised at what a good experience I had at WordCamp Raleigh today. It started out on a great note when I checked in and learned that they had t-shirts in women’s sizes as well as the ubiquitous “unisex.” This really made me feel like I belonged, even though I only knew about a half-dozen people there.

Most of the sessions were either a little beyond my abilities or a little elementary for me, but I still got something out of every one. A few times I followed the unconference Rule of Two Feet and moved to a different session. I especially appreciated the speakers that shared URLs for their presentations at the start so that I could follow along easily from my tablet.

Here are some of the great talks I saw today:

  • After hearing about Angular so many times, I was excited to see Angling Angular presented by Will Haley. Not only was this really practical and informative, Will also ate his own dogfood by doing the presentation with a web app that he made with Angular. This was one of those talks that really stretched my knowledge, and was great for me as a front-end developer.
  • I’ll admit that I went to the session on SEO Strategy because there wasn’t anything else really catching my eye in that timeslot. But I actually found a few helpful tips and learned the rationales behind a lot of tactics that I already follow instinctively, like posting frequently, meaningfully linking within a site, and only using pay-per-click for short, time-sensitive campaigns. Most importantly, we learned to Keep Google Happy. 😉
  • I’ve gotten to know Melissa Eggleston recently though the local Girl Develop It meetup. Her talk was filled with interesting facts and actionable lessons about how users really interact with websites. I highly recommend checking out What We Know About Website Users.
  • I almost missed Dee Teal’s incredibly useful talk on WordPress Site Maintenance due to the overly cute session title “Responsible [digital] Home Ownership.” She covered many areas of site security that are really important and so often overlooked.
  • Even better was “Using Data to Power the User Experience” (another poorly-titled session) which was full of smart strategy and practical ways to take advantage of the tracking that Google Analytics is already doing for free.
  • CMB2: The Metabox Strikes Back was all about a tool that I will probably never use, but gave me good context for working with WordPress hooks, and was peppered with enjoyable Star Wars references.
  • The talk on optimizing site perfomance was close to my heart and covered familiar ground, having struggled with a complex Drupal site on Acquia’s servers for years when I worked at HASTAC. However, the presentation was actually only about optimizing server performance, which is something I would rather leave up to the sysadmins, and didn’t have any WordPress-specific advice.
  • Finally, I attended a demonstration of Roots, which is like a theme framework on steroids. This was another tool that I can’t see using any time soon, but learning about how it works provided a lot of insight into advanced theming issues, in which I am certainly very interested.

I’m looking forward to returning to Raleigh tomorrow for another fun day of learning with and from my fellow geeks.

UPDATE: None of the presenters I saw on the second day had made their slides available online, but they claim they are coming soon to the Wordcamp site.